What is entertainment?

Synopsis : When we were children, we enjoyed the drama and other entertainment during our festivals that brought us all together in the community but now it seems that the social element is missing from people’s lives so they become more lonely and apathetic.The blog scrutinises the role entertainment plays is people’s lives.

What is entertainment?

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Source : Google photo

When we were kids, we had to pay 25 cents a month as the entertainment fee in our school. On weekends a van would come to our school playground where we eagerly waited for the Charlie Chaplin and Laurel Hardy movies that the projectionist showed on a big bed sheet strung between two bamboo poles.

We could sit on either side of the bed sheet and did not care if Chaplin was using his left hand or right because he was so funny either way and we laughed at the antics of Laurel and Hardy until our stomach ached.

The peanut seller did a roaring business at such times to the dismay of the janitor who had to clean up afterwards but we were just kids having fun. There was no restraint on us and the teachers sat in one corner also enjoying the show.

I also remember staying up whole night along with everyone else to watch the drama that the amateur actors and actresses put up during the Pooja festival. We knew them all because they lived in our community and some were related so it was a big family affair.

The sets and settings were primitive and we could hear the prompter on the side hidden behind a thin proscenium trying his best to prompt the lines from the book because the actors could not remember their lines. It was so funny because the prompter could say anything and the poor actors would repeat it without knowing that a joke was being played on them. We roared in laughter and rolled on the ground holding our stomach.

I was often the one holding the rope of the curtain and pulled it with all my might to lift it or let it down as the scene required while swatting the insects attracted by the lights but it was so much fun.

There was a serious scene in a drama one night when an old man farted loudly while the audience was totally absorbed in the drama. All the hell broke loose and the poor girls on the stage tried desperately not to laugh because it was a serious scene. Someone at the back admonished the old man saying Grand Pa behave yourself. People roared in laughter. That was real entertainment in those days.

Once there was a religious drama being played where a bearded man was supposed to throw an egg in a fit of temper but it was a rubber ball painted white that bounced off the stage and landed on the lap of very naughty kids who always sat in the front. Not to be hesitant, they picked up the ball and threw it back on to the stage shouting Grandpa here is your egg. Oh! It was so much fun that I still laugh thinking about the past.

In those days 50 years ago boys and girls did not mix so the boys dressed as girls or women and vice versa so men put up false stuffed bras and looked very funny. The girls had to flatten their chests somehow to look like boys but we knew them all and had fun.

There was no television those days so our only source of music was our old Raymond radio. It was long before the advent of cassette players, CD and DVD players. I brought the first stereo from abroad that people stopped outside our house to listen to because no one had heard such sound before. The future of music with Dolby sound and stereo was still unknown not to mention the CD that could play for hours with crisp clarity and superb sound.

Oh Yes. There were the old-fashioned gramophones. Someone had one that had to be hand cranked to play the record and after each play of few records, the needle had to be replaced because it wore out so fast. We used to joke that a thorn could also do the job. The record played only for three minutes and had to be flipped to hear the part B if it was a narrative or a ghost story that we loved so much. If the speed started to falter, we cranked it up frantically and laughed until tears came.

Then came the long-playing records at 33 rpm and stereo sound. I could stack up 6 records on the spindle that would drop one by one and played them all for quite some time that impressed people.

By this time the cassette players were common but Walkman stereo was just introduced so people loved the sound in their earphones. The evolution of sound continued resulting in CD where it could play 20 songs but that was still many years away.

But the entertainment I am writing about was more of a social thing like watching a funny movie or a drama where the actors forgot their lines. It was something to be enjoyed with others.

Now it has degenerated to a very selfish narcissistic way of enjoying entertainment watching a DVD alone at home or listening to music in your head phone while travelling or sitting in a park. The technology has put excellent sound and video in the hands of common people but taken away from them the joy of entertainment in the company of others. People have become more self-centered and aloof.

The old-fashioned opera and drama has not disappeared totally. I was very amused by a drama played in a village in Bengal by a travelling group that followed the harvest season and knew when the farmers had money. They showed up in a village where their advance team put up the huge tents, lights and sound system, brought in their generators and fenced the area to keep out the free loaders. Their drama was crude and replete with obscene jokes that the farmers easily understood and laughed at .They walked long distance to get to the venue because it was entertainment for them and their family. These itinerant groups had a busy schedule travelling from village to village entertaining people and making good money in the process.

I have seen the same thing in Vietnam during the war when a group appeared in our town and set up the stage and lights. They made such a racket with their gongs and cymbals that it could make you deaf but people greatly enjoyed their songs and dances. Sometimes the actors lost their false beard or mustache but quickly picked it up and put it on. Everyone laughed and forgot for a while that there was a terrible war going on and one could still hear the B-52s dropping the bombs somewhere.

I think the whole idea of entertainment was to live in a fantasy world even if briefly and forget your daily mundane live with all its problems. We go to movies for the same reason. We know that the scenes we see in dazzling colors on a three-story high screen are fake and computer generated but we don’t care because it is entertaining.

We know that the car chases are actually done in slow motion and later speeded up on-screen to give the impression that it is a fast chase. The actors and actresses get beaten to pulp but it is fake blood and they don’t really get hurt but the thrill of action keeps us glued to our seats.

But we are now living in our cocoon so to speak and do not care to share our happiness with others. We get terribly annoyed when someone behind you starts talking on cellphone disturbing others. We want to be private even in a crowd and are offended if others invade our private space in any way.

I know that great changes have come our way the way we interact with others. If you can still find the old neighborhoods in some parts of China, you will see how the houses were constructed all around a common courtyard where children played together and where people sat around smoking and sipping tea with their neighbors while keeping an eye on the kids. It was a social place where everyone knew each other. It was where women washed their clothes around a common well and gossiped with their neighbors.

Now such places have been replaced by suburbs where people live isolated from their neighbors and their children do not get to play with others like they used to. This is the same thing with entertainment. People are less social these days so the emphasis is on the nuclear family.

I have lived in Africa for quite some time working in different countries and know that the Africans in rural remote villages make their own entertainment that is truly fantastic. There would be balafonists , guitar players, singers and dancers who could keep the whole village entertained all night around  a camp fire under a baobab tree. I could even join them in their dance around the fire banging on cymbals making the villagers laugh.

They had village bards who told them stories while playing their home-made guitars. It kept people mesmerized. They had men dressed in feathers or hidden under such a cloak and chirped like a bird while dancing that only a shaman could understand and interpret. They were the master entertainers who needed no prompting and could make up a song or a story impromptu. Anyone could attend because it was free.

But city folks are different. They become self-centered and aloof.

So we in the process of developing a higher standard of living meaning earning a good salary that permits us to live in a big house in the suburb, drive a fancy car and buy the 60 inch curved 4G HDTV etc. have gradually lost our social nature that poor Africans living in remote village still have. Granted most people in this world are still poor and do not have such luxuries that I write about but given half a chance, they will discard their social life in a hurry and jump into the middle class that is their ideal.

They say that there is no one more fanatic than a new convert but that also goes for poor people who join the middle class and become unsocial, arrogant, and narcissistic and lose their soul in the process. It is like eating fast food knowing it is bad for your health just because it tastes good so hell with the health.

What does the future hold?

It is hard to see how anything can get better given the society we now live in unless we change our values dramatically. When sharing, caring and feeling for others are no longer fashionable, it is hard to see how people can come together and enjoy themselves like in the old days.

We whether like it or not have become gadget freaks that bring us instant satisfaction. Today it is I phone or I pad or I something and tomorrow it may be Z pad or Z phone. There is no end to the gadgets that keep popping up in the market place making the old ones instantly obsolete. Remember the 8 tracks? Where are they now?

It is like filling the room with toys for your only child who soon gets bored with toys and smashes them. He grows up with toys and gadgets but never learns to share them with the poor kid who lives in the community. He does not know them and does not care. When he grows up , he becomes even more self-centered and selfish. I have seen how selfish some people are when I was living in the United States. They had abominable behaviors as adults because no one taught them how to be a decent person. The parents probably are to blame or perhaps it is the society as a whole that now values material things more than developing decent values that makes a person a good person.

The entertainment used to be an outlet to let our feelings out in the open when we were not ashamed to laugh hysterically but now it seems that it is no longer fashionable to laugh and enjoy the company of others.

One woman went to an English pub somewhere in a small town and ordered a Guinness beer. The place was full of people all sitting with their drinks morosely like in a funeral parlor, no one even looking at the woman. You are not supposed to look at any one and just mind your own business so the woman started laughing at herself and stood up to break the ice. Hey Guys! She said I am from another country where people greet strangers and offer drinks. What is wrong with you people? Why are you so afraid and afraid of what?

Do you know what happened next? Some people started smiling and opened up and invited her to sit with them. Soon others joined and everybody toasted everybody and talking at once.

So it needs a kick in the bottom for people now to come out of their shells and find out that they enjoy it mixing with others and sharing a joke or a story with a stranger.

It is the same with entertainment so throw away your gadgets and smile at a person, make friends and invite him or her to have fun together. You will soon learn that it is more fun and entertaining than the gadgets.

 

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